Pesto is generally made by grinding garlic, a pinch of salt, and pine nuts together with a mortar and pestle until a creamy paste forms. Some people say the salt is added later, but I say no to this. The salt draws out the liquid of the garlic and helps to break it down into the paste you want. An herb is added, frequently basil thanks to the Genoese, followed by more pounding, rubbing, and scraping by the pestle (which likely lent its name to the pesto). Next comes grated hard cheese, like a salty Parmigiano Reggiano, pecorino romano, or a Grana Padano. A few glugs of extra virgin olive oil brings it all together – and preserves it.
What a lovely way to connect to food, watching it transform in small bowl under your own efforts, pungent garlic, basil, and cheese seducing the senses. And a nice little upper-arm exercise thrown in as a bonus.
But I didn’t do that, if only because I didn’t have time that day. And I didn’t have any basil.
But I had lots of kale in my garden. So I switched kale in for the basil pesto, and traded seduction in for the speed of my food processor. It’s not the same experience, I won’t argue that it is, but it was done in five minutes. And some days, that’s all the time I have.
This is a great pesto to have in the refrigerator – it keeps for about a week or more as long as it’s covered with a little slick of oil. It might last longer, but it was gone way before then. By the time I threw it into eggs and pasta, and on top of breakfast pizzas , I had just enough to spread on some crackers.
Makes about 1/2 cup
Prep Time: 5 minutes
- 10 small kale leaves
- ½ Serrano pepper, seeded, and coarsely chopped
- 6 to 8 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon capers with a few drops of the caper juice
- 3 tablespoon grated Pecorino cheese
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or enough to get the consistency you prefer plus more to top it off
Remove the central tough stem from the kale leaves and discard. Coarsely chop the leaves and add them to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade.
Add the pepper, garlic, salt, capers and juice, and cheese.
Pulse until it’s ground to a coarse paste. Add the olive oil while pulsing.
Pour into a jar, top it with a little slick of olive oil and cover. Keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.